Otter Co-op has confirmed the temporary shutdown of its public cafeteria in its Aldergrove store at 3650 248th St., due to the pandemic, will be permanent.
Otter CEO Jack Nicholson called it a “tough decision” and said Co-op members who had been asking when the cafeteria might reopen were given the news recently.
“It was a difficult decision, but we think it was in the best interest of our staff,” Nicholson said.
“The pandemic has definitely changed things.”
Nicholson told the Langley Advance Times the Co-op was already reviewing the future of the cafeteria before the pandemic hit.
A combination of several factors forced the decision, Nicholson explained, including the additional stress on staff during a pandemic, a high turnover, and the effect of government income support programs like the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).
“CRB is our biggest competitor [for hiring],” Nicholson remarked.
“Folks don’t want to go to work, when they can make as much money at home.”
Known for its bargain menu items, especially the popular all-day breakfast, the Co-op cafeteria was a popular gathering spot for bargain-minded shoppers and seniors.
All-day breakfasts will still be available for takeout, and the deli remains open.
Nicholson noted an outdoor seated area with tables at the 248th Street store will remain as a fair-weather dining option for deli customers at the Co-op.
In 2018, the cafeteria was renovated along with the Co-op deli, shifting the seating area to a larger space.
Originally incorporated as the Otter District Farmers’ Institute in 1922, the Co-op built its first grocery and hardware store on 248 St. in 1946.
It became an official co-operative in 1979 under the Cooperative Association Act, with more than 400 employees and 33,000 active members in communities throughout the Fraser Valley and Interior.
In 2020, the Co-op annual reimbursement to members totaled $4.7 million, a two per cent return on their food, general merchandise, animal feed and liquor purchases, as well as 6.25 cents per litre back on clear gasoline purchased.
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